Tales of Noses & Ears: Portrait Mysteries

January 5, 2012 at 8:44 am (portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In the midst of all the changing thought on Paula Byrne‘s “Austin” portrait, I thought I would write a few words on my own little mysteries. It is because of these “thoughts” that I can commiserate with Paula! and why also I found the show, Jane Austen: the Unseen Portrait? a great viewing experience. Let me explain, from “a beginning”.

When I first began working with these diaries and letters, I was — of course! — presented with really NO images of anyone. I came across a photograph taken of Emma Austen Leigh in older age (6os), then began to find early drawings and silhouettes of her. All were identified — so problem solved! Or so you might think. At least once (an oil painting, seen in a photo), I found an image that looked unlike the others. Just a bad artist? Just more like her than the others? How to answer that question??

While watching the Amanda Vickery show about The Many Lovers of Jane Austen (which I also enjoyed; quite returned me to Fort Worth! But am I alone in thinking the show deserved a bit less-titillating title??), there flashed up on the screen a COMPLETELY new image of James Edward Austen Leigh; I can’t say (having seen a photo, again taken when he was in his 60s) it looks like some of the drawings I have, although it quite seems an off-shoot of another drawing.

Here is the Vickery special’s picture:

There’s just something about it, between the “wind-blown hair” and the “glum” look that makes him look less-than-sober! (Sorry, Edward.) Anyway, except for its identification as “Jane Austen’s nephew, James Edward” I’d not quite recognize him. No clue who has this image. The more I stare at it, while typing… perhaps it’s meant to look “Byronic” or “Romantic”. Will have to look through the letters and diaries. There was ONE image Emma mentioned (by Mrs Carpenter, I belive) that she criticised as “not very like”. But I thought that one covered by an image in Life in the Country! (ie, the book of James Edward Austen Leigh silhouettes, with Jane Austen quotes.)

Today, I was delighted to get a photograph, thought to have been taken in the 1860s, of a Seymour brother. The archive and the person who sent me the photo are unwavering that it represents Sir John Culme Seymour. For several reasons (which I won’t go into here), I believe that — yet wonder: Could it be a different Seymour brother?

So tonight I was looking at the EAR. I’ve a later photo (definitely 1867) of John Seymour, though he is facing the OPPOSITE direction. Oh my! While the lips seem a bit downturned in the ’67 photo, and upturned (a smile?) in the ’60s photo; I’ve long looked at the noses; and now also the ears. The ears do seem to match — rather smooth, as opposed to one brother who has a bit of a pendulous lower lobe.

The reason I bring these things up?? To outline, if briefly, that one DOES compare noses — and other bits and pieces!

Of the Seymour family, I’ve four photographs: three brothers and one sister. Do they look alike?? I can’t say they do!

I once was in church with a family of 8 or 9 siblings. There were short ones and tall ones; thin ones and fat ones; and facially, they really didn’t resemble each other either! Yikes! (I have no brothers and sisters; but I’ve cousins who rather resemble, in small ways, each other.)

When I first found the image of Emma — a photograph, remember — one of my first thoughts was: How much did she and Charles, her brother who died in 1831, look alike?? Did he have her nose? Yes, I found myself asking that Paula Byrne question!

When I first saw an 1860s photo of Mary’s brother Robert Gosling, again my thought was: How much did Mary look like him? — hard to say, looking at a very “Victorian” Gent in a stove-pipe hat! (Frankly, all I could think of was Abe Lincoln.)

Then there’s the REAL puzzle of the Beechey portrait — discussed in the post I’ve Found My Girl!?! — Oh, that one is difficult. The West Virginia museum that has it obtained it BEFORE the portrait at Suttons was sold at auction. That is the hard hurdle to get past. I can believe the costumes were perhaps “old” (c1803) to emulate their mother, who died in 1803. But this tale supposes there once was TWO portraits… And that’s hard to get around.

And yet…

And yet…

The Gosling girls are said to be 3/4-length, seated at a piano, with music in the hand of the elder and a frill painted (for modesty, it was painted years later by that same elder sister!) along the neckline of the younger sister. All those elements are there. You can view the Early Music magazine cover here. (It’s a PDF).

The hunt is on — but while Paula Byrne has one portrait to authenticate — and Sir Roy Strong may be correct in his prognostication that her chances are “Nil” — I’ve, let’s see… Two sets of parents, nine Smith siblings, seven Gosling siblings, four grandparents, a “Smith of Stratford” aunt, three “Smith of Erle Stoke” aunts, three uncles on the Smith side, and an uncle-in-law on the Gosling side, two Smith cousins, a handful of Gosling cousins, numerous in-laws, some children…

Ah! Exhausting just writing about them all. I do hope you’re not exhausted reading about them all.

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Old Friends

November 3, 2011 at 7:44 pm (diaries, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Monday, after sending off a book chapter — and now that it’s two weeks beyond the JASNA AGM, I found myself with nothing that HAD to be done. BUT: I wanted to work, to read and see my dear Smiths & Goslings. Being in the midst of some hunt, I ended up in Emma’s 1828 diary. And a few entries sent me back to the beginning of the year and a complete read-through.

My thoughts came right from the mouth of Sweeney Todd

These are my friends…
Speak to me friend — Whisper,
I’ll listen.
I know, I know — you’ve been locked out of sight all these years…
(My faithful friends)
I’ve come home to find you waiting.

I include this link to Johnny Depp singing this song on YouTube.

I was oh, so happy to welcome back my old friends! It’s been three months of intense work on other things; even my newest diaries — those of Richard Seymour — were barely touched.

And what a treat Emma’s life in 1828 is: she even ended the year reading Emma and getting engaged to James Edward Austen.

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Now Look What’s Missing

June 22, 2011 at 11:42 am (news, people, research) (, , , , , )

Last night I was reviewing the opening pages of the biography of James Edward Austen Leigh, written by daughter Mary Augusta (1911). With the focus, of course, on her father, Mary Augusta was finding reminiscences about him and using his own diaries, as well as excerpts from family letters.

I’ve probably not fully reread this in about 4 years — when this research was in its infancy; there was a LOT I did not know about, a LOT I would have taken note of without noting it down. And this is one of those “fell through the cracks” things.

Mary Augusta comments that Aunt Eliza (Lady Le Marchant) wrote “recollections” about her youth. This niece, )of course!), pulls from them Eliza’s memories of the youthful Edward Austen. Obviously, she would have written down oh-so-many more recollections!

I don’t know if this document would have been long or short;would have  belonged to Mary Augusta or been borrowed by her; existed in as a sole manuscript or was copied out by any of the nieces/nephews. It may very well be resident today in the Le Marchant family! I live in hope anyway. IMAGINE such a “prize”!!!

* * *

As an aside, one disappointment in Scenes from Life at Suttons was the ABSENCE of a portrait of Eliza herself — who, according to the introduction, with Drummond, caused these little “plays” to exist. How much fun it would have been to have seen a youthful depiction of her.

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I Want to Read…

March 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm (books, introduction, news, people, places, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

…DIARIES and LETTERS!

It occurred to me that blog readers might be interested in a bit of “hmmm… what’s she raising money for??” explanation. (see the Austen Book Raffle posts).

I’m more than happy to bend a few “eyes” (and ears) about my research project! (As friends and family know, to their detriment…)

To start at the very beginning: I visited Northern Wales — Llangollen to be exact — and was just ENCHANTED with the story of the Ladies of Llangollen, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler. I began collecting “first-hand” information, and posted it on my website. Surprisingly, there was abundant material! Though much found was of the second-hand, mythic variety, there were some great finds.

One “find” was a Duke University diary. Once belonging to MARY GOSLING, the diary turned out to contain several trips – to the English coast, to the battlefields of Waterloo, and a certain trip to Ireland that took the Gosling family through Northern Wales. And — wait for it! — they visited with the Ladies! Were shown around Plas Newydd (the home of the Ladies of Llangollen; now a museum), in fact!

But who were these GOSLINGS??

(And, by the way, Mary hadn’t much to about the Ladies, other than what was already known about them – ie, how they dressed and how they never travelled far from home.)

With the internet, I struck gold. Found a series of diaries written by Lady Smith, the 2nd daughter of William Gosling of Roehampton Grove, a banker. Now, in Mary Gosling’s diary, there was a man who brought his family to see Bank of Ireland currency MADE. Who, other than a banker, would have the ability to go that? And Mary had them departing from “Roehampton”!

But, without seeing these later diaries of Lady Smith’s, it was mere supposition that Mary Gosling = Lady Smith.

The main reason these Lady Smith diaries were listed online was that they were included in part of an exceptional large microfilm collection. Essex County was in PART FIVE, which I learned was a far cry from Part One — the only series owned by the closest “big” educational facility within easy driving: Dartmouth College (New Hampshire). Oh, the drive home that day was a disappointment.

Again: thankfully the internet — and online college & university catalogues — helped me track down a handful of places with the full series (or at least through series five). A trip to Colonial Williamsburg brought me within easy distance of one of those few: Old Dominion University. I’ve never seen such a lovely library! And once I found the rolls of film with Lady Smith’s diaries, I was well rewarded: There was the SAME handwriting, the same reference to “My Sister” (Mary never calls Elizabeth Gosling anything other than “my Sister”.)

I had found my girl!

Or, should I say girls — for that day I spotted my first reference to young Emma:

If I had KNOWN that in looking up some Jane Austen books I’d have found ALL of Charles Joshua Smith’s siblings, I would have saved myself TONS of digging… Alas, it’s almost a “happier” circumstance to piece the family together: 9 Smith siblings in all!

“Mr Austen, Mr Knight, and Mrs Leigh Perrot” in the diary entry above (Emma and Edward’s first child’s christening!) were the giveaways about the Jane Austen connection.

And thanks to that connection I got to see TONS of diaries and letters and memorabilia (for instance, a lock of young Drummond Smith’s hair!) at the Hampshire Record Office, when I lived in England for two months in 2007 in order to transcribe as much material as possible. For most of the time, I worked six days a week at the archive (thanks to their generous hours) and on the seventh — well, I began well: reading and reviewing the work of previous days, but it was summer and, yes, some Sundays I spent in the park near Winchester’s town hall.

I had already inter-library loaned those rolls of microfilm with Lady Smith’s diaries; purchased a roll of film with all of the existing diaries written by Charles Joshua Smith (Mary Gosling’s husband; Emma Smith’s eldest brother), which the Essex Record Office houses. Now I had a growing collection of letters and diaries by the likes of Emma, her mother Augusta Smith, her sisters Augusta, Fanny and Maria; a diary series belonging to Fanny’s eventual husband, the Rev. Richard Seymour was briefly worked on at the Warwickshire Record Office (their hours were much shorter than HRO’s…).

In short, I’ve seen much, typed a LOT, and still there is more material for me to “visit” — if not in person (expensive) then via film.

And that’s where the Book Raffle comes in. Edward Austen (later Austen Leigh) made some delightful silhouettes, and his descendent, Freydis Welland, put them together into a book, originally published by private press: A Life in the Country. The pictures are accompanied by Jane Austen quotes. The book was then published “commercially” by the British Library.

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Jane Austen Book Raffle

March 6, 2011 at 11:00 am (books, jasna, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Time to post a bit of a *PLUG* for the giveaway:

One lucky winner will be gifted with this SIGNED copy of the delightful Life in the Country. Let’s take a quick look inside!

A little history, as my Emma would say, of the book:

This copy came direct from the U.K. (purchased by a friend). I brought it with me to the 2009 JASNA AGM in Philadelphia. Joan Ray, who spoke in Vermont in September of that year, had already signed the book. In Philadelphia, I tracked down Maggie Lane after her AGM presentation (I also wanted to see if she had heard of the Goslings, as a banking firm; unfortunately, she was unfamiliar with them). Freydis Welland, who is the daughther of Joan Austen-Leigh, I sought out because I wanted to meet her — she’s my Emma’s family, after all! Freydis and her sister were most kind in their remarks about my research, and Freydis consented to sign the copy of this book. Thus, only Eileen Sutherland is missing in this line-up.

The essays, like the one pictured — “Jane Austen and her Family” (Maggie Lane’s contribution) — make for a nice read. The bulk of the book are made up of wonderful silhouettes cut by my James Edward Austen Leigh!

My online review of the book has this to say about Life in the Country: “Most reviews of Life in the Country focus on its Jane Austen connection; while her name will create media coverage and open consumer wallets, it is the silhouettes themselves that will keep this book at hand. Although noted a bit late, there is acknowledgement at the back that virtually all the silhouettes are presented in their original size. The level of intricacy, especially in the more complicated scenery pieces, is astounding and the skill necessary to have produced them freehand is truly amazing.”

To read the entire review, see Jane Austen in Vermont (the JASNA-Vermont blog): http://janeausteninvermont.wordpress.com/2008/12/03/life-in-the-country-a-review/

The Jane Austen Raffle is simple and costs only $1:

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Book Raffle: Life in the Country (autographed)

February 2, 2011 at 1:35 am (books, news, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

To Celebrate the birthdays of
Mary Gosling and Charles Joshua Smith,
Two Teens in the Time of Austen
announces its first book raffle.
The gift that’s up for grabs?
An autographed copy of the British Library edition of

 Life in the Country: with Quotations by Jane Austen
& Silhouettes by her nephew
James Edward Austen Leigh

**This copy is signed by Joan Klingel Ray, Maggie Lane and Freydis Jane Welland**

**This copy is signed by Joan Klingel Ray, Maggie Lane and Freydis Jane Welland**

Edited by Freydis Jane Welland and Eileen Sutherland, book contents include:

“Jane Austen and Her Family”
Maggie Lane

“The Silhouette Art of James Edward Austen Leigh”
Joan Klingel Ray

Silhouettes
James Edward Austen Leigh

Quotations
Jane Austen

 with an afterword by Joan Austen Leigh

— To enter —

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Dearest Aunt…

January 11, 2011 at 11:26 am (people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Emma, writing to Aunt (Mrs Judith Smith, sister to Emma’s deceased father Charles), 10 Oct 1831:

“Our party here is very tiny only four; five I ought to say for Miss Corbaux is still with us – She has made a most charming water colored drawing of Mamma for me which is (Aunt Northampton says) amazingly like. She is seated on a Sofa in a black velvet gown with her hands crossed and her head rather on one side in a reflecting mood & so much like the attitude of the head in yr picture that it must be characteristic of her – The maids think it so much like [Missis?] sitting at Prayers. Then Miss Corbaux has taken a drawing of Miss Ashley for Charlotte which is very nearly as like as Mamma’s – I am going to indulge myself with having a likeness of Edward taken as the one by Mrs. Carpenter is not satisfactory – The children we do not mean to have taken considering it too great an extravagance…”

Can’t you just SEE Mamma: her dress, her demeanor, her attitude and look: oh, what’s happened to this drawing?!

I will post later some information on the artist.

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Puzzle piece leads to more Puzzling

October 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm (news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Great thanks to Jacky, in Maidstone, England, for contacting me — she has some exciting pieces of the Smith puzzle!

But one piece in particular I want to blog about today. Jacky writes:

The journal about Maria by Augusta {Mamma Smith} … talks about Maria’s development, particularly the development of her character, but also how she is doing with her lessons and with learning skills such as music and drawing.

There is much in family letters about young Maria’s struggles in Music and Drawing (after all, she had FIVE elder sisters to compete against, including the ‘perfect’ Augusta).

Maria was 15 years younger than the eldest, Augusta, and a young teenager and woman when her sisters were young wives and mothers. She ended up being pretty much alone with her mother by the mid-1830s, and obviously at times felt the “baby” of the family, wishing for ties to the siblings who somewhat had left her behind because of their own children and spouses.

But the very existence of this journal — a Georgian “Baby Book,” if I may so term it — raises the specter of just such a manuscript mentioned in the biography (by his daughter, Mary Augusta Austen Leigh) of James Edward Austen Leigh, this, however, about Edward’s brother-in-law, the youngest Smith son, Drummond:

In a MS. book describing Drummond from his birth onwards, his mother writes…

WHAT MANUSCRIPT BOOK?!? Was my reaction at the time of reading this sentence. I rather forgot about it, when talking about so much else that either I know is out there (seen and as yet unseen…), as well as what I expect to find, as well as what I know is currently “missing”. So much material! And thank God there’s so much material!

Jacky believes Mamma all along meant to present this little journal to Maria. And, in 1911, young Mary Augusta Austen Leigh had access to that book outlining Drummond’s youth — including some concluding paragraphs, written by Mamma after hearing of his death:

His arrival at home for the vacations was hailed with the greatest delight and affection and seemed to infuse new animation within the Family. His constant good temper and cheerfulness and his powers of conversation made him the most charming inmate and companion; in the larger circle of acquaintance he was valued and caressed because he was so agreeable, but in the inner circle of his near Relatives he was loved to a very great degree because he was so amiable and warmhearted. He was quite free from conceit, though his abilities were certainly above the ordinary level, I do not think he was sensible of it. . . . His conversation had a peculiar charm from the originality of some of his ideas, from the sudden, yet apposite allusions he would bring in unexpectedly, from his good spirits, and above all because it was so natural and so entirely without study or display. . . . It happened to be his lot to live much with an excellent clergyman, his Brother-in-law, Mr Austen, and all that I hear from him of my dear Drummond’s character raises my hope that our good and great Creator has not cut him off from life thus early in punishment, but in mercy; to take him from evil to come, to shorten his probation.

I must admit, not being overly religious myself, to being affected by the great store Mrs Smith put in her faith as she lost (at this time) more family: in 1825 Belinda, her daughter-in-law; in 1831, Charles, her eldest son; in February 1832, her sister-in-law Judith Smith and in November, her youngest son Drummond.

I can only wonder, however: ARE THERE “BABY BOOKS” OUT THERE FOR EACH OF HER NINE CHILDREN? From an era when such documents of baby were begun with gusto, only to be abandoned before baby was more than a couple years old, especially if a sibling joined the family (my own baby book didn’t even get THAT far!), it is amazing to me that Mrs Smith pursued this route. Emma, Mary and Augusta document the physical growth of their children, in their journals — but I’ve never come across anything like this “Maria Journal”. How grateful I am to know of its existence!

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Previewing Persuasions

April 1, 2009 at 11:40 am (books) (, , , , , , , )

peak-cavern-entrance_1830-kmJASNA has posted a link to the table of contents for volume 30 (2008) of the Jane Austen Society of North America’s journal Persuasions. This annual is a peer-reviewed journal, featuring both articles based on papers presented at the October AGMs (Annual General Meeting; 2008’s took placed in Chicago) and ‘miscellany’ — which includes my own article on the 1833 Austen-Smith journey to Derbyshire: they travelled pretty much in the shoes of Elizabeth Bennet! Watch the JASNA website, for I have been told the article might be posted on their “maps” page (a quite useful resource, now augmented with related articles on places and travel pulled from the Persuasions archive). This article has evolved into an illustrated talk, which will be of interest to anyone with an affinity for 19th-century travel in England!

(picture, courtesy of AncestryImages.com, shows the Entrance to the Peak Cavern – complete with its twine workers)

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Eliza Chute in Silhouette

October 26, 2008 at 2:09 pm (chutes of the vyne, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

A busy weekend; have one article in the proof stage and another that needed some revision (and got a bit expanded — all to its benefit, if I say so myself). Last night I was so wide awake that I pulled out the newest book to land in my mailbox: A Life in the Country (British Library, 2008). This may have Jane Austen quotes, but I wanted it for the silhouettes done by James-Edward Austen-Leigh! So what a couple superb bonuses… an intriguing painting of Edward in the days near his marriage to Emma. The cleft chin is depicted but why does his hair seem a bit thinning? (As an older man he had quite the full head of hair, as one photograph attests.) For the first time I see a portrait of Emma and Edward’s daughter, Mary Augusta – who authored the memoir of JEAL that comes in handy to anyone looking into the lives of the Smith sisters; and a lovely silhouette of a young Caroline Austen, Edward’s sister.

But it is ELIZA and WILLIAM CHUTE which interested me, and, as I discuss Eliza quite a bit (and have so much more to say about her) I include here this lovely silhouette.

I will have more to say about the book (the British Library was kind enough to send a review copy), though probably on Jane Austen in Vermont’s blog. I will just say that it is wonderful to see it in a so-called trade edition, for I could never had afforded the limited edition copy. But JASNA-News ran a nice review of that when it first came out in 2005.

BTW, poor Edward deserves a bit more of the credit, don’t you think?? Yet it’s JANE AUSTEN’s name that sells a book nowadays… Hope we can change that. For the Austen-Leighs are fascinating, as are the Smiths and Goslings and all the in-laws — as can be seen from the comment on the Le Marchants! They all lead such ordinarily extraordinary lives.

Thank God people saw fit to save their portraits, letters, diaries and ephemera!

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